Thursday, December 30, 2010

Islamic Purity at Odds with Javanese Identity

Islamic Purity at Odds with Javanese Identity
The Muhammadiyah and the Celebration of the Garebeg Maulud Ritual in Yogyakarta

Herman Beck
(Theologische Faculteit Tilburg)

... As for Ahmad Dahlan himself, his aim was to purify Islam by openly opposing various manifestations of innovation and superstition which had crept in, such as the ritual community meals (Jav./In., slametan or kenduren), the visits to graves and the veneration of saints, the belief in amulets (Jav./In., jimat) and heirlooms (Jav./In., pusaka) as possessing magical power and sacred energy, and religious relics dating from the Hindu and Buddhist periods in Indonesia. He considered these religious phenomena, often referred to as expressions of adat, as shirk or polytheism, to be worst sin possible, in flat contradiction to the most important Islamic doctrine of tawhid, the profession of the unity of God. Surprisingly, however, neither Ahmad Dahlan nor any other representative member of the Muhammadiyah has, to my knowledge, ever made an official statement condemning the celebration of the Garebeg Maulud ritual by the Sultan of Yogyakarta as innovation or superstition. This Garebeg Maulud ritual is, nonetheless, impregnated with concepts, rites and symbols, which are generally renounced by the Muhammadiyah.

In order to trace the motive(s) which held the Muhammadiyah back from officially condemning the Garebeg Maulud ritual, I will first sketch its celebration in broad outlines, and then try to ascertain, by tracing the origin and the historical development of the Garebeg Maulud ritual, which of its features should be considered as integral and indispesable parts of the ritual. Thirdly, I will dwell on some interpretations of, and comments on, the Garebeg Maulud ritual and its various parts, made by both Muhammadiyah members and others. In section four I will discuss the social environment in which the Muhammadiyah developed in early 20th century Yogyakarta. Finally, in the concluding section, I will demonstrate that iti is the social environment of the movement which is responsible for its historical and current attitude towards the Garebeg Maulud ritual...

Beck, H. 1995. "Islamic purity at odds with Javanese identity: the Muhammadiyah and the celebration of the Garebeg Maulud ritual in Yogyakarta". In Jan Platvoet and Karel van der Toorn (eds.). Pluralism and Identity: Studies in Ritual Behaviour. Leiden: Brill. pp. 261-284.

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